Social anxiety disorder and social phobia involve an intense fear of social situations and being publicly judged or humiliated. Severe anxiety and panic attacks in the face of public or social activity are hallmarks of social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety symptoms cause people to avoid social or public activity, a disability that impairs careers, relationships and quality of life.
Social Anxiety Triggers
Any social or public activity can trigger an anxiety panic attack in people with social anxiety disorder. Events that people with social anxiety find particularly uncomfortable may include:
- Being introduced to or talking with strangers;
- Eating or ordering food in public;
- Public speaking;
- Returning items to stores;
- Starting conversations or making eye contact;
- Using public restrooms;
- Using telephones; and
- Writing in front of people.
Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Fear, anxiety, panic attacks and other symptoms make social anxiety a debilitating illness. A person with social anxiety is extremely afraid of public embarrassment, humiliation or negative judgment. Often, the individual is acutely aware of social anxiety symptoms, and worries that symptom onset will occur in public. This leads to a vicious circle in which worry about disorder symptoms exacerbates concerns about public appearance and social activities.
Possible social anxiety symptoms include:
- Anticipating future events with fear and panic;
- Avoiding fear-causing social situations;
- Avoiding social events / experiencing distress and fear during events;
- Constant fear of being embarrassed in public by own actions;
- Fear of being negatively judged by others;
- Onset of fear / anxiety / panic attacks when in feared situation;
- Understanding anxiety is out of proportion with feared event, but being unable to calm fears; and
- Worrying social anxiety symptoms are noticeable to others.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Physical symptoms of anxiety often accompany social phobia. People may feel faint, sweat, tremble, twitch or blush. Other physical symptoms of anxiety include an increase in heart rate, rapid breathing, clammy hands and muscle tension. Nausea, an upset stomach, tightness in the chest and voice shakiness may also occur.
Social Anxiety Symptoms in Children
Social anxiety disorder symptoms in children differ slightly from the symptoms that are seen in adults. Like adults, children with social phobia may fear embarrassment or judgment by their peers, but this fear does not usually extend to adults or teenagers.
Children, unlike adults, may not realize that their social phobia symptoms are excessive. If they do realize their reactions are unusual, they may deny the fact that they suffer from social anxiety. Childhood anxiety in social situations may be expressed by avoiding unfamiliar people, throwing tantrums in social situations, or even selective mutism (an inability to speak in certain circumstances).
Treating Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Help is available for individuals with social anxiety symptoms. Anxiety medication can help control symptoms, while social anxiety therapy helps people overcome their fear of social situations. A social anxiety disorder diagnosis is very important; like many anxiety disorders, social phobia symptoms tend to worsen over time, making it more difficult for the affected person to seek help.
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